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Sensory Sacrifice: Staging Class, Effacing Sexuality in Bangladeshi Hijra Dance

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Title:Sensory Sacrifice: Staging Class, Effacing Sexuality in Bangladeshi Hijra Dance
Authors:Rahman, Munjulika
Date Issued:2013
Publisher:University of Hawaii at Manoa Center for South Asian Studies
Citation:Rahman, Munjulika, "Sensory Sacrifice: Staging Class, Effacing Sexuality in Bangladeshi Hijra Dance." Paper presented at the Center for South Asian Studies 30th Annual Symposium, "Sensing South Asia," Honolulu, April 17-19, 2013.
Abstract:In 2010, an ensemble of hijra (male to female transgender) dancers performed in the opening ceremony of the International Dance Day event organized by Bangladesh Dance Artist’s Association. My paper explores the careful utilization of the senses in their choreography, which was based on the devotional song “Aguner poroshmoni chuyiye dao…” by the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore. The song makes references to touch, visual, and aural senses in relation to the physical body, when describing the sacrifices the devotee wishes to make for the deity. In contrast to stereotypical movements such as clapping and gyrating associated with hijras in South Asia, these dancers used slow movements, creating a visually quiet presence on stage. Drawing on the work of Jose Munoz, Pierre Bourdieu, and Philip Zarilli, I analyze issues of class, sexuality, and gender in relation to visual and aural senses in the performance. I contend that the hijra dancers employ Tagore’s song and simplistic, gradual movements to resist stereotypes of hijras as over-sexed and “crude.” But the constrained use of the senses in the performance conforms to upper class, heteronormative performances of “femininity” in South Asian dance. Thus, I elaborate on how “sensory disciplining” enabled this group of dancers to participate in the national event.
Rights:Rahman, Munjulika
Appears in Collections: 2013 South Asia Spring Symposium Presentations

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